Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
Last Saturday (Sept 15), Bill Christophersen and Dave Howard launched the fall Cranberry Coffeehouse season with a rousing fanfare! The duo, on fiddle and guitar, serenaded the crowd with everything from Texas rags to Appalachian ballads, from modal melodies to dance tunes. Their repertoire stretched from the 1790s to the 1970s, with cool licks and beautifully executed vocal harmonies. Their songs were poignant, humorous and altogether delightful.
Does everyone know about the Cranberry Coffeehouse, the longest continually running coffeehouse in the Southern Tier, now in its 41st year?
Over the years, the Coffeehouse has brought the finest folk musicians in the world to Binghamton, and continues to do so. The atmosphere is very 1960s — acoustic music only, music that invites sing-alongs, good coffee and an array of fine goodies to go with it, and a middle set, when local performers can play a tune, sing a song, dance a dance or tell a story.
Run successfully for decades by Charlene Thomson, the coffeehouse is now managed by Chris Koldewey. He’s doing a bang-up job — lining up big-name performers from the folk world: In the last few seasons alone, he brought in John Kirk and Trish Miller, the Johnson Girls, Dan Berggren, Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette, Nowell Sing We Clear, and a host of other talented folks from around the U.S., Australia, Canada and England.
And where else can you enjoy an evening’s entertainment for a mere $8?
Here is the fall schedule:

  • Oct. 20 — Dan Berggren and Ed Lowman. Dan’s roots are firmly in the Adirondacks, but his music has branched out across many borders. The singer/songwriter/musician is also an award-winning educator who has entertained from New England to Central Africa. He’s a favorite at the Cranberry. Ed plays a dandy upright string bass!
  • Nov. 16 — a special concert by the trio Annalivia. Liz Simmons, Flynn Cohen and Mariel Vandersteel, play fiddles, guitars, mandolin and sing, performing everything from Irish, Scottish and Norwegian to old-time music. This is an original and energetic band.
  • Dec. 8 — Coffeehouse regulars Charlene Thomson and Martin Bidney usher in Hanukkah and holiday season with lively klezmer tunes (think Eastern European jazz!) on violin, piano, autoharp and accordion.

And a peek ahead: John Kirk and Trish Miller “break up Christmas” on the third Saturday of January. They’ve been performing at the Cranberry every January for decades. Regardless of the weather, they pack the house, so get there early. John’s superb fiddling and Trish’s clogging highlight the evening.
All coffeehouses are 7:30-10 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, 183 Riverside Drive, Binghamton (next to Lourdes Hospital). For more information, email or phone Chris at 754-9437. If you’d like to be added to a list-serve (only one e-mail notice every month), email Lee Shepherd at